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May 12, 1942: Mine Explosion Kills 56 in Osage

e-WV Encyclopedia
Library of Congress

On May 12, 1942, a worker in the Christopher No. 3 mine at Osage—just outside Morgantown—left a ventilation door open, and methane accumulated in a dusty area of the mine. At 2:25 in the afternoon, an electric arc from machinery set off an explosion that coursed through three sections of the mine, killing 53 men, destroying ventilation equipment, and causing roof falls. Three others later suffocated in the noxious ‘‘afterdamp’’ gasses. Several miners managed to reach safety through a return airway.

The Christopher No. 3 was one of many mines along Scotts Run that had produced coal for decades. Miraculously, none had ever suffered a major disaster until the incident at Osage in 1942. Within the next eight months, though, the area would experience two more tragedies.

Only two months later—in July 1942—a roof fall at Pursglove No. 2 triggered an explosion that killed 20 miners. Then, in early January 1943, a haulage locomotive fire spread to the coal seam in Pursglove No. 15, killing 12. In eight months, three coal mine disasters along Scotts Run had taken the lives of 89 men.

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